TRACING THE ORIGIN AND SPIRIT OF DEVADIGAS
Ptolemy the 2nd century geographer identifies the Tulu Nadu region as Olokhoira which is widely believed to be a corruption of the term Alva Kheda, 'the land of the Alvas'. Flanked on the west by the Arabian Sea and on the east by the Western Ghats, Tulu Nadu normally experiences a tropical climate and usually sees heavy rains. Tulu, one of the earliest off shoots of the South Dravidian languages, developed as an independent language since about 8th century B.C The Tulu language is spoken by around 3 million people, it is among the most integral Dravidian languages in the country. It is the 24th most populous Indian language according to the 2001 census of India. Linguists have suggested that the word Tulu literally means water, and with similar meanings in other southern languages, it is considered a literal 'language of the waters'.
Historically, Tulu Nadu included the two separate lands of Haiva and Tuluva. Tulu Nadu was cosmopolitan, in that all profession based classes or castes lived in harmony dependent on each other without prejudice. This is a land of nature and spirit worship. The Tuluva Cosmos is a world of highly structured and ordered system as a whole.
Devadigas are originally from Tulu Nadu, the land of Lord Parashurama stretching between Karwar in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka and Kasaragod district of Kerala in west-coast of India up to the Chandragiri river. Northern Malabar was part of South Kanara until the State Reorganization of 1956. Like all communities, due to the advent of Industrialisation, the Devadigas are scattered all over India; mainly concentrated in Udupi, Daskshina Kannada & Uttara Kannada Districts of Karnataka besides cities like Mumbai, Bangalore and Mangalore.
Devadiga is an ethnic name for a group of people from South Kanara (now D.K.), Udupi and northern Malabar. Devadiga is split as Deva + Adiga. Dev means deity and divine spirits of a temple. Adiga means a player or servant (in temple). Traditionally, they are spirit players and drummers in the ancient Hindu temples. The important work assigned to Devadiga (Moilees) in the temples is playing the role of official temple Spirit (holding a sword accompanied by shivering and dancing) dancing in front of the chief deity of the temple, while the deity is in the process of making divine rounds (known as bali or bali barpini) around the temple precincts. They are also doing variety of additional jobs, such as cleaning, lighting arrays of earthen oil-lamps, and beating the kettle-drum (Nagāri), Barrel Drum (Chende) or double drums (Mourri ?) and sometimes also playing musical instruments in the temples. .
A.Stuart writes as follows. “This is a class of servants, chiefly musicians in Hindu temples. In the reign of Mayūra Varma, who built a number of new temples, it was found that Brāhmans could not perform all the services. It was, therefore, ordained by him that the pūja or worship alone should be performed by the Brāhmans, and that the Stanikas and Dēvādigas should perform the other services in the temples. They are also called Moili (or Moyili), but there is a caste called Kannada Moili which is quite distinct. The Devadigas have contributed to a classical folk art tradition called Yakshagana that is well liked in South India.
Devadigas regionally are known by names such as Muyile, Moyili or Moyli, S(h)erigar, Sani, Servegara, Ambalavasi, Bogunvale (?), Devadasi, Devadiger, Dewale, Devadig, Ganikula, Kavalnath, Konkan Valegar etc. They speak Tulu, Kannada and Malayalam. In some Government classifications, the Sappalaga or Sapilaga are included in the list of Devadigas.
Devadigas of Kasargod region consider that they were originally Tamilians. When a Tamil Pandya Raja invaded Tulu Nadu, they were one among the retinue who came with him. The Pandya Raja conquered regions up to Nandavara and built many temples. Before going back, he appointed his chieftains as administrators and left behind Devadigas to serve in those temples as musicians and do other cleansing jobs. At Kumble, Pandya Raja appointed Jayasimha as his representative. They assimilated into Tulu culture and adopted Tulu, Kannada and Malayalam languages, one of them being their mother tongue. So, they are polyglot, i.e. multi-lingual.
The other story is that Kadamba King Mayur Sharma (later he assumed Varma, a Kshatriya name) encouraged construction of Hindu temples in Banavasi. Similar practices came up in Tulunadu. The Stanika Brahmins, Devadigas and Sapaligas were ordained by the rulers to work in temples to assist the temple priests Brahmins in maintaining the day to day business of the temple.
Shri Vadiraja Tirtha (C. 1480-C.1600), who lived for 120 years was a great Dvaita Philosopher, poet and mystic. He was a polymath. There is a belief in currency that he ordained Carpenters, Goldsmiths, and Devadigas to be treated as Brahmins during their period of stay in temple for doing temple duties by performing a sanctifying ritual.
Each Devadiga clan has its own ‘Moolāsthana’ where snakes are worshipped. They are also followers of animism, i.e. the belief that natural objects, natural phenomena and the universe itself possess souls. So, they also believe in Spiritual beings or agencies. At some temples, they are mediums for spirit-possession (Pātris).
They follow matriarchal system as other Tuluva communities. Marriage between girl and boy of same ‘bari’(ಬರಿ) is forbidden. Traditionally, heritance of property rights moves along female line though male is custodian. They too have similar clan (bari-ಬರಿ) names, like Mogaveeras, Billavas, Kulalas, i.e. Kunder, Salian, Suvarna, Shriyan, Karkera, Maindan, Mendon, Bangera, Gujaran, Uppian, Kukkiyan and so on. Besides that, we have come across other baris, viz. Bundhan, Bageeyatan, Adayran (Adyaranna?), Shettiyan, Kayaran, Guliyechan, Vadeyaran, Pergadan, Karmaran, Puthian, Odrenna, Malayanna, Huttaryan, Chandiyan and Katkane.
The incidence of Adayran and other baris among the Devadigas is interesting from the genetic point of view. For example, Adi is an ancient tribal community and about 192 villages named after Adi such as Adia, Adyar, Adiyur, Adivala, Adve, Adigon, Adihaletc are found in Tulunadu as well as in other parts of India. Similar deductions can be made about some of the less common baris prevalent among the Devadigas enlisted above. Thus admixture of common and less common baris among the Devadigas suggest infusion of several tribal streams during the initial stages of creation of communities from the tribes. The caste is a mixed one, and here and there Dēvādigas are seen to have the typical prominent cheek-bones and square face of the Jains.
Palthady Ramakrishna Achar, a renowned scholar and President of the Tulu Sahitya Academy is of the opinion that Bhoota Aradhane in its present form is not native to Tulu Nadu. “It was introduced here around 14th century from Sri Lanka where it is still alive in the form of Yaksha Aradhane. As ancestral worship was already a part of Tulu culture, this form of spirit worship was readily adopted by the Tuluvas, he observed. Along with contributing to the strong familial and community bonds among the people of Tulu Nadu, the spirit worship also serves to bridge the religious divide as spirits with Muslim origins like Ali Bhoota and Bobbarya are also venerated by the faithful.
From India's independence and following the reorganization of states, the Tuluvas have been demanding national language status for Tulu and a separate state for themselves called Tulu Nadu (Land of Tuluvas), based on their language and distinct culture. Though somewhat subdued for a while, this demand has grown stronger in recent years. Several organizations like the Tulu Rajya Horata Samiti have taken up the cause of the Tuluvas, and frequent meetings and demonstrations are held across towns in Tulunadu (like Mangaluru, Udupi etc.) to voice their demands.
In the Census Report, 1901, Dakkera Dēvali, Padarti, and Vālagadava are returned as sub-divisions of Devadiga. Most of Kerala society structure is the replication of Tulu society. The Ambalavasi section is similar to Devadiga in Tulu society.
Devadiga.com has been mentioned as an external link on the website of Infogalactic.com.
By Adrish ( Sourced from various websites including blog by Ravindra Mundkur and Hosabettu Vishwanath and Edgar Thurston - Castes and Tribes of Southern India.).
The majority of population of Devadigas reside in undivided Dakshina Kannada, Udupi & Uttara Kannada districts of Karnataka. Presently they are scattered all over India with major concentration in Mumbai, Maharashtra and Abroad. Devadigas are still playing a major role in Temple maintenance as supervisors (Devadiga/Moily) and also known as TempleMusicians(Sherigar). The mother tongue of Devadigas is Tulu in southern region and Kannada in northern region of coastal Karnataka.
( ಕನ್ನಡದಲ್ಲಿ ಬರಹ ವನ್ನು ಸದ್ಯದಲ್ಲೇ ಅಪ್ ಲೋಡ್ ಮಾಡಲಾಗುವುದು )